Last summer1, during the 96 Day
Lecture and Cultivation Session, The Shurangama Sutra was spoken. The
Shurangama Sutra describes the Fifty Skandha Demons2,
all of whom surpass present day externalists3, the
heavenly demons and those who seek enlightenment outside the Way, in
power. Earlier, when I gave the followers of a certain religion the
name demonic ghosts, I elevated their position, for in fact, they
are not up to demonic ghosts. I fear that demonic ghosts wouldn't
even want them as grandsons. However, because I know these people, I
raised their status and said they were demonic ghosts.
The wonderful functions of the spiritual
penetrations of the Fifty Skandha Demons are much more ferocious
than the powers of the externalists. Some can emit light from the
tops of their heads, and, focusing this light on your head, cause
your head to also emit light. Is this a spiritual penetration or
not? According to the Buddhadharma, these kinds of spiritual
penetrations belong to demons, how much the more so are the limited
powers of the present day externalists who are unable to emit light.
Externalists don't qualify as demons. Why?
These people are students of the fly. The fly flies east, flies
west, flies north, flies south, flies coming and flies going, but he
can't find a way out. These blind followers are also like this. What
is a blind follower? A blind follower is
one who studies the way with a blind man. If you are
unclear, you should study the methods of a clear and principled
teaching. These blind followers need theories but have none; they
need Dharma but have no Dharma. So, their religion is a combination
of all other religions.
In China there is a saying, "Beat your own
face fat." Because you are skinny you beat your own face so that
it swells and becomes fat. Then, when other people see you they say,
"Ohhh, that's a fat one." This reflects the same principle.
Most people rely on the blind to lead them,
because there are few in the world who have understanding, and many
that don't. Wise people are few; stupid people are many. The wise
man enjoys listening to true principle; a stupid man listens to
confused principles. Confused people can only teach others to travel
down the road of confusion.
I am not scolding these people when I say that
they are demonic ghosts. There are people who welcome demonic ghosts
as teachers because they are not taught to cut off sexual desire,
but are allowed to be very loose in this respect. They consider this
good. The Buddha taught that sexual desire must be cut off. If you
do not extinguish sexual desire, "It is like steaming sand and
gravel, desiring that they become rice"4. Such a principle does not
exist. You say, "I must obtain both the non-ultimate bliss of humans
and also ultimate transcendental bliss." You can't have both, but
this is in direct opposition to the views of some religions.
There are also those who consider cultivation
of the Buddhadharma merely to be "head-mouth" Zen5 and do not
actually practice. They do not cultivate according to the methods
taught by the Buddha. This is the same as being demons, and such
people certainly cannot be included among the disciples of the
Buddha. It is the same with people who do not bow to the Buddha.
They say that they believe in Buddhism, but they do not bow to the Buddha.
The future retribution received by these people
will be extremely severe. Ultimately, whether they will go to the
animal realm, the hells, or to the realm of hungry ghosts, there is
no one who will insure them? Why is that? If you study the
Buddhadharma you must do so in accord with the methods and teachings
given by the Buddha. You cannot say, "I am very great", and consider
yourself bigger than the Buddha. This is an especially grave
mistake. Students of the Buddhadharma should not only reverently
respect Buddhas, but upon encountering Bodhisattvas,
Arhats, and great cultivators, should
respectfully bow to each of them, and not be filled with arrogance
and self-satisfaction, considering themselves extremely important.
In China there is an epithet, "Big Self（自大）". If
you see yourself as very big, then you stink. (When the characters 自, "self", and 大, "big", are
placed one over the other, and one stroke is added, a new character 臭 is formed. It
means "stink".) No matter who you are, if you study Buddhism you
cannot have a big self, but must be modest, respectful, agreeable,
and friendly towards everyone.
Now I will tell you about Never Slighting
Bodhisattva. This Bodhisattva was Sakyamuni Buddha in a former life
when he was cultivating the Bodhisattva Way by exclusively,
respectfully, practicing the Ten Great Kingly Vows of Universally
Worthy Bodhisattva (Samantabhadra Bodhisattva):
The First: Worship and Respect all Buddhas. The
first vow is to respectfully make obeisance to all Buddhas, all
Buddhas of the ten directions and the three periods of time.
The Second: Commend and Praise Tathagathas. The
second great vow of Universally Worthy Bodhisattva is to praise the
Buddha saying, "Ohhh, the Buddha is so fine."
"Does the Buddha like people to praise him?"
Not bad question. The Buddha appreciates people's praise. But this
praise does not praise the Buddha. Who does praise? Praise of the
Buddha just praises yourself.
"Now," you reply, "I don't want to praise
myself. You don't want to praise yourself? It's just that you don’t
want to praise the Buddha. The Buddha is one with living beings. Now
you say, "If I am Buddha, it's certainly unnecessary to bow to the
Buddha." This is also a mistake. You, yourself,
are Buddha; that's not
wrong. However, you have not cultivated. Your self-nature is Buddha,
but you have not cultivated and therefore cannot be the same as the
Buddha; you have not testified to the result.
If you say that everyone is Buddha, why did
Sakyamuni Buddha go to the Snow Mountains and meditate for six
years? Why was it necessary for him to sit beneath the Bodhi Tree
for 49 days to open enlightenment and accomplish Buddhahood? Why did
he work so hard? In past lives Sakyamuni Buddha cultivated all kinds
of ascetic practices, and Dhyana
concentrations. He cultivated prajna, giving, morality, patience,
vigor—many Dharma-doors. Yet in this life
he still had to cultivate six years of ascetic practices before,
seated beneath the Bodhi Tree, he saw a bright star in the night and
enlightened to the Way. Now we need not talk of six years in the
Snow Mountains, you have not even passed through six days, or even
six hours. So your talk of being Buddha is too cheap; it is just a
Buddha that you have picked up off the street, I have a criticism of
those people who say they themselves are Buddha. To do this is to be
utterly shameless and disgraceful. They talk big, with no sense of
In a past life Sakyamuni Buddha was Never
Slighting Bodhisattva. Never Slighting means that he never slighted
living beings. When he saw the Buddha he bowed to the Buddha; when
he saw Bodhisattvas he bowed to them; when he saw Arhats he bowed to them; when he saw ordinary people he bowed
to them; when he saw Bhiksus and Bhiksunis he bowed to them. He would bow,
saying, "I dare not slight you, in the future you will all become
Buddhas. If I were to slight you, it would be equivalent to
slighting the Buddha." His respect for living beings was genuine,
not the least bit facetious. He would make obeisance to whomever he met.
But the retribution he received from this was
terrible. How was that? There were Bhiksus
of paramount arrogance and pride who said to him, "You don't
understand the Buddhadharma at all. You have no right to transmit
predictions." Then they hit him. He bowed to them and they kicked
him, knocking out all of his teeth.
Most people, if they received a beating in
return for bowing, would say, "I'm not going to bow to you anymore!"
But although he was beaten and kicked. Never Slighting Bodhisattva
still bowed. He practiced "faraway bowing". Upon seeing Bhiksus or Bhiksunis,
he would bow from a distance, and would not wait until they were
right at his side. Then he would stand up and run off. People beat
him and he still maintained the practice of not slighting living
beings. This was a former life of Sakyamuni Buddha. Previously I
mentioned that in his former lives Sakyamuni Buddha cultivated
various kinds of giving, patience, morality, vigor, Dhyana concentrations, and
Prajna; he cultivated the six paramitas and the 10,000 conducts.
One cannot accomplish Buddhahood in one or two
seconds, and so there are demons and grandsons of demons who,
without even knowing who they themselves are, and with a complete
lack of shame, say, "Everybody is Buddha". This is an example of
improper speech and twisted cultivation. Those who consider
themselves to be Buddha do not know the Buddha. Why do they not know
the Buddha? It is as if a man falsely praises himself, setting
himself up as emperor, or perhaps president. He has not, however,
passed through the selective process and no one protects or supports
him, and so his presidency is a lonely one; nobody acknowledges him.
If someone were to do this in America, he would certainly go to
jail. Why? He would be paying no respect to the laws of the country,
and like a criminal would be taken to have his head cut off, without
any question of politeness.
People who conduct themselves in this way with
respect to Buddhism will certainly go to the hells in the future.
They consider themselves to be Buddha, and not only don't cultivate,
but create bad karmic offenses as well. They use the Buddha's name
to publicly swindle people. They say, "I am Buddha; you are also
Buddha; everybody is Buddha. We should all get together and devise a
scheme with which to cheat the people of the world." In the future
these people will certainly go to the hells. You should not think
that this is fun and games. It is a most serious and dangerous
matter. It is more dangerous than sleeping with one's arms embracing
an atomic bomb. In the future these people will most certainly go to
There are roads to the Heavens,
You don't walk them.
The Hells are without any gates,
You force your way in.
In The Shurangama Sutra is a story which I will relate to you again.
"Confused understanding spreads confused understanding.
Because one preaches, two don't understand.
When the master falls into the hells,
His disciple reverently follows along."
The disciple arrives in the hells, and the
master upon seeing him asks, "What are you doing here?"
The disciple replies, "You came here, and I
study with you, so of course I had to come. You came here, so it
must be okay. I must follow my teacher."
The master says, "Aauughnn, mistake! Oh, what a
mistake! This is hell!"
"How is it that you have carried me off to the
hells?" asks the disciple.
"I don't know," replies the master.
"I don't even know how I got here. How I want to get out and can't."
It is not just that he is unable to leave; all
of his disciples are also like fish trapped in a net. The hells are
filled to the brim with the master and his disciples. When will they
get out? No one knows. No one is able to answer this question. To
say that you yourself are Buddha is to not know the Buddha and
misunderstand the Dharma. Retribution accordingly follows.
You should cultivate according to the Ten Great
Kingly Vows of Universally Worthy Bodhisattva. The first is to
worship and respect all Buddhas, and the second is to commend and
The Third: Vastly Cultivate Making Offerings.
This does not mean that today I will make offerings and not
tomorrow; nor does it mean that I will make offerings to one Buddha
and not to another. We should equally make offerings, vastly
cultivate making offerings. What else should we do?
The Fourth: Repent and Reform Karmic Obstacles.
Why should we bow to the Buddha? Because we have done too many bad
deeds throughout immeasurable kalpas past until now, so we bow to
show our resolve to repent and reform. We must correct the errors of
our own minds. That is to repent and reform.
The Fifth: Follow and Rejoice in Merit and
Virtue. When you see good deeds being done you should imitate them.
If you are able to do a dime's worth of merit, do a dime's worth of
merits If you are able to do a dollar's worth of merit, do a
dollar's worth of merit. If you are able to do a hundred dollar's
worth of merit, do that. Merit and virtue are for you to do. To
cultivate the Bodhisattva Way is to benefit oneself and benefit
others. You should at all times help other people, and not just
selfishly benefit yourself.
The Sixth: Request the Turning of the Dharma
Wheel. What does this mean? For example, you know that a certain
Dharma Master is capable of explaining Sutras and so you request him
to come and lecture a Sutra. Last Sunday, for instance, Kuo P'u and Kuo Ning
asked me if I would lecture The Diamond Suta. I am
basically able; for me to lecture Sutras is no problem.
I know that until now there has not been any
Buddhadharma in America, and that no one has properly explained
Sutras. Basically there isn't anyone who
is capable of explaining Sutras. All those
people who say that they can explain Sutras
and speak Dharma speak without principle.
If I had said this before, you would have protested. But now that
you have studied The Shurangama Sutra,
and know for certain that what I say is correct, you know that I am
not mistaken in my criticism. Why? Sutras are unspeakably wonderful.
If you do not have the ability acquired through several decades of
study, then you are altogether unaware of the wonderful meaning of
Sutras. So a few days ago I talked of an
ant looking at a watermelon (see Vajra Bodhi Sea, Issue 3,
June 1970, p. 14). It runs about on the watermelon's surface
but cannot get at it's flavor. In fact, in America there are a
great many people who say, "I am a Buddhist. I study Buddhism. I
have a PhD in Buddhism. I am a Buddhist this, and a Buddhist that."
Ahhh, if you haven't put yourself down, then you certainly don't
understand the Buddhadharma. If you understand the Buddhadharma, why
are you incapable of casting aside your PhD? Why can't you put it down?
There are PhD's of this country, and of that
country, who go about cheating little children. But the little
children accept this cheating. If you speak the truth...Kuo Ch'ien
lectured at a college today and spoke some true principles, and no
one listened to him. Now, after lecturing The
Shurangama Sutra, I can explain true principles for you
to hear, because your level is adequate. If you speak the truth to
those who aren't up to this level, they run away in fright. They
listen to it once and never come again. Why? Because they are small,
ignorant children. You give them candy and they know it is sweet,
but no matter what principle you speak to them, they don't
understand. If there is no candy to eat, they don't come back. For
example, that one who came last night did not come back today. These
are just small children; ignorant, unaware children. They do not
understand genuine, proper Buddhadharma. This is not strange,
because small children do not understand things. Now all of us can
To request the turning of the Dharma-wheel is
to request those who truly and genuinely understand the Buddhadharma
to come and explain Sutras. It is not to
say that so and so is a PhD or something, and because of that one
studies with him. This is really...It is as I said above, "Confused
understanding spreading confused understanding". How should it be?
If you want to study carpentry, then you should go where carpentry
is taught. If you want to study metalworking, go ding ding dong,
ding ding dong, and then you will be able to understand the trade of
metalworking. Whatever you wish to study, you must study where that
subject is taught.
Now, all of you are extremely smart. Who is it
that taught you? It was Dr. Conze. He may well be a transformation
body of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. A transformation professor who
teaches all of his students that to properly study the Buddhadharma
one must find and study with a Dharma Master.
He understands Buddhadharma very well. He is able to teach you to
walk the way of true Buddhadharma. He is not like others who think
that they themselves are inconceivable affairs, manifesting a new
and unusual manner, claiming to understand the Buddhadharma. They
don't pass the test. Requesting the turning of the Dharma Wheel is
to request a Dharma Master to explain Sutras
and speak Dharma.
The First: Worship and Respect all Buddhas. The
Second: Commend and Praise Tathagatas. The Third: Vastly Cultivate
Making Offerings. The Fourth: Repent and Reform Karmic Obstacles,
The Fifth: Follow and Rejoice in Merit and Virtue. The Sixth:
Request the Turning of the Dharma Wheel.
The Seventh: Request Buddhas to Dwell in the
World. Presently the Buddha is not dwelling in the world, so we
should request the Buddhadharma to dwell in the world.
The Eighth: Constantly Follow the Buddhas in
Study. Sakyamuni Buddha cultivated the Bodhisattva way, regarding
his own body as empty. We should study with Buddhas.
The Ninth: Persevere in Accord with Living
Beings. This is to constantly be in accord with living beings,
hoping to lead them to understanding.
The Tenth: Universally Transfer Merit. This is
to take all of your merit and virtue and universally transfer it to
all the living beings of the Dharma realm.
Now, the time has run away without waiting for
me, so I have no way to finish speaking the Ten Great Vows.
- 1Summer 1968.
interested in further study of the Fifty Skandha Demons should
consult Rolls Nine and Ten of The Shurangama Sutra.
- 3This refers to people who seek for enlightenment outside of their own
Shurangama Sutra, Roll Six.
refers to talk of emptiness and enlightenment by those who